Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Messiah and His Miracles

The Conflict with the Sanhedrists

What was the response of Jesus to the decision to reject His Messianic claim?

It was a prophecy of judgement - sometimes spoken of as a 'rejection of Israel'. It is true that Israel rejected Him and His offer of the Messianic kingdom, and it is true that He withdrew the offer of the 'at hand' kingdom, but His words and actions had clear bounderies.

The rejection of Israel. 

Replacement theologians hold that God, in Christ, rejected the nation of Israel and permanently replaced them in His purposes with the Church.  I contend that the rejection of Israel by Jesus the Messiah was not a permanent rejection.   The Messiah, who always chose His words with great care, spoke of one generation of the nation, ‘this generation’.  It is ‘this generation’ of Israel that was rejected, because it was with ‘this generation’ of Israel that He contended. He said, “He (the Son of Man) must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”[1]  And His recorded words of Matthew 21.43, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it,” were spoken to the leaders of that generation.[2]

It will be that single generation that will stand at the bar of God and be accused of unlawfully rejecting their Messiah: “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here”.[3]

Previous generations had rejected the servants of YHWH, but that one generation alone rejected the Son of God. Their own words will condemn them.[4]  Jesus says as much in His parable of the vinedressers.  Their response to the claims of the Lord of the vineyard, presented by the Son and Heir, was: “This is the heir, come let us kill him”.[5]

The phrase ‘this generation’ is used in Matt.11.16; 12.41,42,45; 23.36; 24.34; Mk.8.12,38; 13.30; Luke 7.31; 11.29-32; 11.50,51; 17.25; 21.32.  Qualifying adjectives of ‘this generation’ include ‘wicked’, ‘evil’ and ‘adulterous’.  The rejection of this generation by the Son of God was justified!

The supercessionist view that God permanently rejected Israel is incorrect. While it is true that a rejection took place, it was the rejection of a generation. While it would have major implications for future generations, it cannot be used to teach that the Messiah withdrew God’s covenantal promises from the nation.  As with the wilderness generation at the time of the exodus from Egypt, and as with the generation that went into captivity in Babylon, there is an ‘until’ with this judgement. For the wilderness generation, the ‘until’ lasted 40 years. For the Babylonian captives, the ‘until’ lasted 70 years.  Here the ‘until’ is not given a time qualification but a moral dimension. Jesus, referring to His rejection and Israel’s subsequent rejection, gives the condition for their restoration: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more until you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”[6]  Here, He is anticipating call from a future repentant Israel. Another saying of the Messiah in Matthew supports this.  When He spoke to the apostles He anticipated a future restoration of Israel: “assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”[7]

Paul, the great expositor, also believed in the future restoration of Israel when he looked into the future and said: “all Israel shall be saved”;[8] and this is the context for that mighty statement: “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable”.[9] Luke, describing the teaching ministry of the resurrected Messiah in Acts, categorises it as kingdom truth: “to whom He also presented Himself alive … being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.[10] Just prior to His ascension they asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?[11] Jesus did not deny the restoration of Israel only informed them that God the Father had not yet published the timetable of it. “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”[12]  Paul asked the question, “I say then, has God cast away His people?” and himself answered, “Certainly not!”[13]

[1] Luke 17.25
[2] Matt.21.23
[3] Matt.12.41,42
[4] Matt.23.31-36
[5] Matt.21.38
[6] Matt.23.39; Luke 13.35
[7] Matt.19.28
[8] Rom.11.26
[9] Rom.11.29
[10] Acts 1.3
[11] Acts 1.6
[12] Acts 1.7
[13] Rom.11.1

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Messiah and His Miracles (Continued)

The Conflict with the Sanhedrists (the leaders of the nation)

The governing body of Israel at the  time of Christ had observed and weighed the actions of Jesus and decided to reject His Messianic claim (see previous blogs). This time we begin to examine how Jesus reacted to their decision.

What was the response of Jesus to their decision?

There is a point of no return for the obdurate. In His dealings with man, God sometimes says, ‘enough is enough’.  The judgements at the time of Noah, and then at the tower of Babel, suggest as much. Twice before, in His dealings with Israel, God has pronounced a judgement that affected the whole nation.

(i)                 The generation of Israelites that rebelled on the journey from Egypt to Canaan under the leadership of Moses suffered such a judgement.

(ii)               Then there was the judgement that sent the nation into captivity to Babylon.

(iii)             Now there is to be a judgement on the generation that rejected Jesus as Messiah. When they rejected Jesus as Messiah, particularly for such base reasons and in such a way, that generation of Israel was rejected.

When they dismissed Jesus’ Messianic claims and when they attributed the good works that He had performed by the Spirit of God, to the power of the Devil,[1] they committed the unpardonable sin.  Their lying blasphemy, which still lives today, has no forgiveness.[2]  Those that attributed the attesting signs to Beelzebub were clearly in the camp of Satan, and Jesus called them a “brood of vipers”,[3] words well chosen, for they were true children of the Serpent,[4] and disseminated the lies of the father of lies.[5]

Their rejected Messiah had yet one more message for them. When He was asked for yet another attesting sign, He said: “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”[6]  This sign, which will be more thoroughly examined in chapter ten, has an extra dimension that the Messiah expressed: “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here”.[7]  “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the Wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.”[8] This suggests that not only have they rejected a prophet greater than Jonah, but rejected the personified ‘Wisdom’ of God.[9]

Not only did Jesus prophesy the ultimate fate of that generation of the Jewish nation – the most privileged generation that ever lived – a generation who had the living God walking among them, blessing them and teaching them – but He also prophesied their more immediate fate. He gave it in the form of an illustration, no doubt prompted by the case that caused the final rift: “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’. And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.[10]

The eight woes of Matthew 23 repeat His judgement on the Pharisaic Sanhedrists: “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”[11]

[1] Matt.12.24
[2] Matt.12.31,32
[3] Matt.12.34
[4] John 8.44
[5] John 8.44,55
[6] Matt.12.39,40 (NASB)
[7] Matt.12.41
[8] Matt.12.42
[9] Proverbs chapter 8
[10] Matt.12.43-45
[11] Matt.23.33-36

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Messiah and His Miracles

What was the decision of the nation’s leaders to the messianic claim of Jesus?

The third stage of investigating a Messianic Claim is the stage of decision and declaration. To repeat, the Pharisaic Sanhedrists decided to reject the Messianic claimant because:

(1)     He would not protect their position in the nation.

(2)     He opposed their doctrine.

(3)     He condemned their lifestyle.

If He were not stopped, they would

(1)     Lose the adulation of the population.

(2)     Lose the power they held as interpreters of the oral law.

(3)     Lose the wealth that their position in the nation provided.

The Sadducean Sanhedrists decided to reject the Messianic claimant because:

(1)     He opposed their moneymaking ventures.

(2)     He opposed their doctrine.

(3)     He condemned their lifestyle.

If He were not stopped they would:

(1)     Lose their political power with Rome

(2)     Lose their influence over the nation as intermediaries between Israelites and God.

(3)     Lose the wealth generated by the monopolies they controlled.  

Nevertheless, these reasons for the rejection of the prophet of Nazareth were not for public consumption. The nation’s leaders had already begun a rumour-mongering programme but needed some public issue to carry the general population in support of their decision.  So they brought to Him a very difficult case of healing, significantly a man with an unclean demon, who was both blind and dumb.

Although in the T’nach exorcisms are almost unknown, at the time of the Messiah, Jewish exorcists were having some success. Their pattern of exorcism was to establish communication with the demon, ascertain its name and then addressing it directly, command it in the name of a higher authority to leave. The disciples of the Lord also used this pattern. For example, the seventy returned from their mission saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject unto us in Your name”.[1] Another example, though not typical, is recorded in Acts: “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches”.[2]    However, with a dumb demon this communication is difficult, in most cases, impossible.  The Lord Himself acknowledged the extra difficulty when the disciples confessed they could not cast out such a demon in the name of the Messiah.[3]   Because, in the Jewish mind, only Messiah would be able to heal these extreme cases, here was a decisive test for Jesus.  In this case, because the man was also sightless, the degree of difficulty was increased, yet “He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw”.[4]  The onlookers immediately understood the significance of this Messianic miracle: “… all the multitudes were amazed and said, Could this be the Son of David?”[5]

The Sanhedrists were ready with an explanation. Wishing to discredit the sign, they repeated their previously published opinion that Jesus was demon possessed.[6] “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons”.[7]  The Sanhedrists’ accused Jesus of being in league with Satan, and that Satan gave Him His power.   Their position, whether they understood it or not, was that the temptation in the wilderness had been successful. Jesus had taken the bribes offered and was now a follower of Satan and a sinner like the rest of Adam’s ‘fallen race’.  Since Satan had failed to make Jesus the ‘cast down’ one, he was now getting the population to treat Him as such, by this insidious lie. The lie became the accepted opinion of the population. The Sanhedrists never disputed that Jesus performed miracles, but the Talmud reiterates the reason for His rejection - he did it by sorcery, expanding it further by saying He brought magical charms back from Egypt (Egypt was regarded as the special home of magic, an opinion expressed  in the Talmud).[8] The Pharisees rejected Jesus as Messiah because He would not endorse the oral law, and support their position in the nation.  The Sadducees rejected Jesus as Messiah because He opposed their unholy practices in the Temple, and undermined their position in the nation. But the reason they gave to the nation was not the real reason. They published that Jesus was demon possessed and therefore could not be Israel’s Messiah.  Thus the climax of the investigation was over the issue of the key attesting sign – the serpent in subjection!  They declared that Jesus did not have the serpent in subjection, but the serpent had Jesus in subjection!

Next Time: The Response of Jesus

[1] Luke 10.17
[2] Acts 19.13
[3] Mark 9.15-29
[4] Matt.12.22
[5] Matt.12.23
[6] Matt.9.34; 10.25
[7] Matt.12.24
[8] B.Qidd.49b (See Christianity in Talmud and Midrash by R.T. Herford published by Williams & Norgate – Division 1.A.(8))